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St. Pete Beach is raked by tornado

Seventeen houses receive minor to moderate damage.

By JAMIE THOMPSON
Published August 25, 2004

ST. PETE BEACH - Eight-year-old Dylan Marshlack had just finished his homework when he looked out the window and said, "Dad, what's that?"

A large water spout was swirling across Boca Ciega Bay about 1,000 yards from their St. Pete Beach home. They watched for a moment, until the 50-foot-wide spout churned directly toward them.

Dane Marshlack rushed his wife and children into a closet and watched the spiral hit his dock, shake his 28-foot boat and then toss his metal patio furniture across the yard.

He ran for cover as the spout cut through his yard, felled several palm trees and demolished the second floor of a house under construction next door.

The tornado thrashed above several other homes on Boca Ciega Isle Drive, traveled across an inlet and landed again on 44th Avenue, ripping off one woman's metal awning. Neighbors saw patio umbrellas, pool cleaning equipment and tree limbs twirl through the air.

In all, 17 homes received minor to moderate damage when the water spout made landfall shortly after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, according to St. Pete Beach firefighters. No one was injured.

"It happened so fast," Dane Marshlack said. "It was so violent."

Marshlack believes his roof, pelted by plywood from the construction site next door, sustained thousands of dollars in damage.

So did Lorraine Blakeley's home on 44th Avenue.

She was sipping coffee when her cat, Inky, seemed to get agitated and walked into the bedroom. Blakeley followed and then heard a howling wind and a large crash.

The tornado ripped off a metal awning on the front of her one-story house. It landed in a crumpled heap next door. Rain swamped Blakeley's Florida room, soaking her furniture.

Neighbors rushed over to make sure she was okay. She was, although Inky remained hidden under her bed. Soaked from the rain, neighbors laughed in relief and compared notes on the damage.

They said several water spouts have caused serious damage in the neighborhood over the years.

Firefighters did not have a damage estimate on Tuesday evening.

"We dodged the hurricane," said Blakeley's neighbor, Bunny Nissen, whose home was not damaged. "Then the tornado came to show us what we missed."

Jamie Thompson can be reached at 727 893-8455 or jthompson@sptimes.com

[Last modified August 25, 2004, 01:33:17]


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